Granger Going Ahead With Appointments of Chancellor and Chief Justice

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Justice Kenneth Benjamin and Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards

Despite Opposition Leader’s Rejection

GEORGETOWN, GUYANA (DEMERARA WAVES) — President David Granger will be moving ahead with the appointment of his nominees for the posts of Chancellor of the Judiciary and Chief Justice, despite rejection form the opposition PPP/C.

PPP Leader Bharrat Jagdeo has constitutionally rejected the appointments of Justice Kenneth Benjamin as Chancellor and Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards as Chief Justice. (SEE STORY BELOW)

Minister of State Joseph Harmon said Guyana’s constitution provides for “meaningful consultation” between the President and the Opposition Leader to pave the way for the appointments.

“There is a constitutional position which we’ll look at and if, in fact, there is no agreement for them to be appointed in the substantive position, then, as I said, there is constitutional provision for them to be appointed otherwise,” Harmon said when asked by Demerara Waves Online News.

Harmon declined to say whether, using other constitutional provisions, they would be appointed to act or substantively.

Meanwhile, minutes later Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo said he was willing to continue engaging the President to appoint persons as “substantive post-holders”.

“Mr. Jagdeo’s rejection is constitutional and the president’s powers are also constitutional and there is a provision in the law which provides that, in event there cannot be agreement,… then there is a second level which now requires meaningful consultation so I believe that that is the next step where we will have to go to,” Harmon added.

Article 127 (2) of Guyana’s Constitution states if the office of Chancellor or Chief Justice is vacant…until a person has been appointed … those functions shall be performed by such other of the judges as shall be appointed by the President after meaningful consultation with the Leader of the Opposition.

It unclear whether acting Chancellor Cummings-Edwards and acting Chief Justice George-Wiltshire would be asked to step down.

Jagdeo refused to publicly state the reasons for rejecting Benjamin and Cummings-Edwards for the two top judicial posts. Currently, Justice Roxane George-Wiltshire is acting as Chief Justice. She has not applied for either of the two posts. – (http://demerarawaves.com)

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Jagdeo Does Not Support President’s Nominees for Chancellor, CJ

GUYANA (STABROEK NEWS) — Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo after weeks of deliberation on Wednesday relayed his disapproval to President David Granger of the latter’s nominees for Chancellor of the Judiciary and Chief Justice.

In a letter to President Granger, Jagdeo said that after undertaking the requisite due diligence he could not support the appointment of Justice Kenneth Benjamin as Chancellor of the Judiciary or Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards as Chief Justice.

Jagdeo’s office released the letter on Wednesday after the Ministry of the Presidency posted a photo on its Facebook page of the President and Ministers Joseph Harmon and Basil Williams while stating that the Opposition Leader had been a no-show at a scheduled meeting.

The Opposition Leader’s office later released a statement saying that he had gotten no information from the government confirming a meeting for Wednesday and had therefore dispatched letters to Granger.

The Opposition Leader’s office said that around 4 pm Wednesday he also contacted Harmon via telephone and advised him of the letters and indicated a willingness to meet at a convenient time.

Jagdeo’s office said that he was therefore surprised at the statement by the Ministry of the Presidency that he had not attended a scheduled meeting.

In late December, Granger had informed the Opposition Leader that Justice Benjamin was his nominee for the post of Chancellor of the judiciary while Justcie Cummings-Edwards was being proposed for the substantive post of Chief Justice. Following a meeting on January 3rd. Jagdeo, however, asked for one month to consider Justice Benjamin. As a result, a second meeting was set for February 7th, when Jagdeo was expected to inform the president if the nominees meet his approval.

In his letter to Granger on Wednesday, Jagdeo also said he recognized the importance of substantive appointments.

“Please be informed that I remain cognizant of the fundamental importance of securing substantive appointments to these two high constitutional offices. As a result, I am committed to continuous engagement with your Excellency until there is due compliance with Article 127 (1) of the Constitution”, the letter said.

After years of the Chancellor and Chief Justice performing here in acting capacities, Guyana has come under growing pressure to ensure that substantive appointments are made. This matter was recently addressed by President of the CCJ, Sir Dennis Byron.

Article 127 (1) of the Constitution stipulates that “the Chancellor and the Chief Justice shall each be appointed by the President, acting after obtaining the agreement of the Leader of the Opposition.”

Stabroek News last week contacted Benjamin’s office in Belize but was unable to speak directly to him. On the advice of his secretary an email was said. Though there was an acknowledgement, the questions contained were never answered.

Since it had become known that Justice Benjamin, who is Guyanese by birth, might be nominated to the post of Chancellor, his record as the Chief Justice in Belize has come under scrutiny. Justice Benjamin has had a backlog of judgments in the CARICOM member state. This has put him at odds with the bar association there.

It was reported in the Belize media that despite assurances Justice Benjamin would be unable to deliver all 32 of his delayed judgments and this could result in the Belize Bar Association making good on its threat to file proceedings to have him removed from office for misconduct.

Amandala newspaper in a December 12th publication reported that Justice Benjamin would be unable to conclude the backlog by the end of the legal year

According to the Belize Judiciary website, Justice Benjamin received his legal training from the University of the West Indies and the Hugh Wooding Law School in Trinidad and Tobago. It stated that he returned to Guyana, where he practised privately, and served as a Magistrate and the Assistant Judge Advocate for the Guyana Defence Force.

Benjamin who is a Guyanese by birth also holds Antiguan citizenship. (stabroeknews.com)

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